ACL and blackness isn’t something one would immediately associate with the other. But, as black folks do, we rocked the first day of Weekend Two in a way that only we can. Upon arrival, I watched as glistening brown bodies walked to the beat through the waves of different music genres.
It was nothing short of art to see us gliding out of hard performances like Skepta, gathering for beers in Barton Springs Beer Hall, and then settling into the therapeutic experience that was Solange Knowles’ performance.
It’s easy to forget that while Austin is a predominantly white city, the waves and celebration of blackness that rises up every now and then is a reminder of the power of black joy.
“I’m originally from Chicago,” said Heaven a 23 year old traveler, “but once I heard Solange was here, I knew I had to come down to ACL.”
“So what’s been your take on Austin so far?” I asked.
“It’s interesting because I’m kind of finding myself right now and exploring the way my body and mind feels when mingling with other people, right? Well, Chicago is predominantly black and it’s a dope city as a result, but while Austin seems to be a lot whiter, it seems like coming to spaces like this Solange set really make me feel like I can find my space any where.”
And finding space is exactly what a group of festival goers did. Solange’s set was postponed 45 minutes because of travel issues, but that didn’t stop a group of women from pulling out their portable speaker and starting a party of their own.
The lights covered the audience in a red blanket
“We’re gonna get hype some type of way,” explained Toyin, a 22 year old Houstonian. She turned the volume of the speaker all the way up and with the bounce of her fro, she belted out the lyrics to Solange’s song, “F.U.B.U.”
Toyin, Heaven, and others sprang up from the grass right as the lights flashed on.
The lights covered the audience in a red blanket and horns sounded Solange’s welcome.
Solange’s set was made impeccable because of the visible relationship she had with the other artists on stage. They were all the epitome of black artistry. The horn players laughed between sonic exhalations, the bassist skipped around on stage, and dancers performed geometric choreography while singing sighs of angels.
As Solange danced through the stage, it is obvious why she won a grammy for the Best R&B Performance. The costumes they wore breathed out afro futuristic with elements of soul train dance moves and fashion.
Women in the audience sobbed and held hands, singing the songs we’d only sang in private, sounding like an oddly harmonized choir of experience.
The pivotal point of her show, though, was when Solange sang her highly anticipated, “F.U.B.U” to a loving fan.
A woman in the front row broke down into tears as Solange descended the stage to sing the entire song to her.
“Don’t clip my wings before I learn to fly” Solange sang, “I didn’t come back down to Earth to die.”
And as the woman cried, holding Solange’s hand as tightly as a child does their hero, Heaven turned to me and grabbed my hand, singing “This is for US.”
Unfortunately, because of Solange’s delay I wasn’t able to capture Jay Z’s set, but truly Solange’s set was cathartic for me. From the shift of uniform tank tops and shorts, to the sea of afros, cornrows, hair jewelry and sisterhood, the first day of ACL for me was made by Solange performing “for us.”